Summer is here! We hope you find time to relax and take a break, but you should know that identity thieves and con artists are always on the job and working hard to steal your money. Here are 12 ways to guard against identity theft:
- First rule of thumb: If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. Thieves are always devising new ways to steal your money. Keep your eyes and ears open to fraud alerts and warnings.
- Never give out your personal information to anyone unless you have initiated the contact. Please note: VSECU will never contact you to ask for your account number or other personal information. However, when you contact us, we may ask you to provide some personal information to verify your identity.
- If possible, do not carry with you personal information, such as your social security card or credit cards you rarely use. Store documents with personal information locked away in a secure place.
- Report lost or stolen checks, debit cards or credit cards to your financial institution or card issuer immediately.
- Shred anything bearing personal information before disposal. This includes discarded credit card or account applications.
- Do not respond to an e-mail, letter or phone call that you’ve won a lottery or contest that you’ve never entered. (Refer to Rule #1)
- Read your account statements thoroughly and monitor your VSECU accounts and credit card accounts online. Report suspicious activity immediately.
- Check your free credit report from all three credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. Report any errors or suspicious activity immediately.
- Watch your mailbox! Retrieve your mail as soon after delivery as possible, and mail bill payments that contain checks and account numbers from a U.S. Postal Service collection box.
- Be aware of the people around you when using an ATM or a computer in a public place or pay at a retailer or restaurant with a debit or credit card. They could be noting passwords, PINs, account numbers and other personal information.
- Never share your passwords—not even with your best friend—that give access to your accounts or other personal information. Try to memorize your passwords, but if you must write them down, store them in a protected place (not on your computer).
- Know that clever internet thieves will send fake e-mails or instant messages to direct you to web sites that resemble legitimate web sites, tricking you into giving your personal information. This is called “phishing.” Don’t take the bait!
What if you become a victim? Even the most careful people can become victims of identity theft. If you think someone is using your personal information, report the theft immediately and take action to stop the thief from doing more damage. A great source for steps to take can be found at www.ftc.gov. Here are the first steps to take:
- Report the crime to local law enforcement and fill out a report.
- Call your financial institution or credit card issuer to report the crime. You may want to put a stop payment on a check, close your account, have a new account number issued, etc.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit file with the credit bureaus. Equifax: 1-888-766-0008 or www.equifax.com; Experian: 1-888-397-3742 or www.experian.com; TransUnion: 800-680-7289 or www.transunion.com.
- File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov as the FTC tracks ID thefts.